Hi! I'm Genelle, and my business partner is my mom, Jeanne. We started Akasha Sun in 2013, and now I live in Arizona while Jeanne resides in Colorado.
I want to thank you for being here. I mean really, thank you. Whether you are new to my shop or if you have been with us for a while, it means a lot to us. Our story hasn't been the smoothest one, and we are still finding our way. I want to be as transparent as possible with you.
When I started Akasha Sun back in 2013, I was working a full-time job and getting my degree in Complementary Medicine at the same time. I craved a creative outlet, and I fell in love with both yoga and tie-dye. I bought a handful of dyes, supplies, and some blank American Apparel yoga pants. At the time I was living with my parents, and the only room in the house I could use was the mudroom. Yes, the tiny little room you use as you walk in the garage to get into the house. I remember taping cloth tarps to the floor and using a little red bucket to carry my freshly dyed pants to the kitchen sink to wash them out. Everyone in my household thought I had completely lost my mind and I would probably be over this venture in a few weeks.
The very first pair of pants I made was a beautiful chartreuse green. I started listing them on Etsy and I got super excited when orders started coming in. I originally would make a certain style, and then make duplicates of them as each order came in. An online yoga retailer contacted me asking if she could dropship my pants to her customers. The orders started streaming in, and I felt like I was successful. Sometime later I had moved my production to my bathroom, and I remember sitting on my bathroom floor with tears running down my face because I was so exhausted and stressed. I was still working full time and taking classes, so I felt completely overwhelmed. My mom started getting interested in the tie-dye herself and I soon realized she had an amazing talent and creative eye. She started helping me and eventually made her own designs.
As time went on I remember someone asking me what my profit margin was on my clothes. I wrote down the cost of my materials and labor and was shocked to discover I was operating at a loss, especially with my drop ship contract. To make matters worse, she hadn't paid me for months of orders. It took several emails and phone calls to finally get what I was owed. After breaking ties with her company, she copied my line of clothing and started her own brand to replace mine on her website.
After this situation, I knew I needed to get some outside help. I found a small local manufacturer that could make my pants and I loved what they stood for. They pay their employees good wages, they are eco-friendly, and overall a great group of people. My next step was to find someone that could help me with the business side of things. I was introduced to a marketing company that seemed to align with my mission. I spent half of my savings (and profits) on what I thought would be the start of a great future for Akasha Sun. It was a very large sum of money to someone like me, but a small sum to them. I remember getting the final product of what I paid for and it was a spiral-bound notebook consisting of data about very large yoga clothing brands - which wasn't relevant to us at all.
His next recommendation was to be a part of a well-known yoga festival in Colorado. That idea seemed promising to me. He suggested that we should be the primary sponsor. The price to be the lead sponsor took the rest of my savings, but I had hope. We spent countless hours creating product and marketing material for the festival. We rented a house for a total of 5 of us who had to pretty much put our lives on hold for this event. It was a disaster, to say the least. We sat in our tent in the middle of a park for days with little to no foot traffic or festival-goers.
We didn't even set up our tent on the final day. We just packed my car with the unsold clothing, the tables, racks, and marketing materials. We all felt completely distraught and done with it all. I remember getting back from the trip and leaving the clothes from the festival in the tubs for a long time. I didn't even want to look at them because it just reminded me of failure.
Akasha Sun floated in space after that. I had the product from the festival listed on Etsy, but aside from that, I was done. I thought it was the end of Akasha Sun. It felt a lot like going through a separation or a divorce. It wasn't until 2019 that I felt like giving it one last shot. I changed the clothing style completely. I planned on offering only a handful of styles and they were muted and basic. I deleted "yoga" from my brand and focused more on baby clothing and loungewear. When I launched the new collection it felt like I threw a big party but no one showed up. I felt completely disconnected from my brand, and my customers no longer felt connected to it either.
I was about ready to put the business to bed for sure this time. I was now going for my Masters in Public Health and went full throttle into creating a health business. When the pandemic hit, I had several people ask if I could make masks since there was such a need for them at the time. I figured it wouldn't hurt to make a few tie-dye masks. I got my sewing machine out and started creating. I felt like I was breathing life back into the company and at the same time, my mom started tie-dyeing new things in her studio. I decided to dedicated 2020 to Akasha Sun. I turned my front living room into a photo studio, I made a new website, I rebranded, and I came back to social media. I even introduced ice dye kits because a lot of people were stuck at home and wanted fun projects to do with their families.
Here we are in 2021, and a lot has changed in a year. I wish I could say that we are successful now and we've hit our stride, but we are still a work in progress. I had to face a lot of things these past few months. Akasha Sun has come a long way from where it was, but it's still not where I have always envisioned it being. I want to be even more hands-on, I want to have the best plant-based organic fabric, and I want to bring all of you along on this journey with a lot more behind the scenes.
Flat out, it costs a lot of money to run a business, and especially to create a well-made ethical product. We want to do things right, even if it means it costs more. Things will look a little different around here soon, but it will be for the best. We want each step of our process to be intentional and environmentally-conscious. We aren't making disposable clothing here, we are creating clothing that means something. Otherwise, why are we doing this? We are excited to take you with us.
Thank you for coming along on this journey.